I meant to post this yesterday in honor of Earth Day but since we should be thinking about the Earth everyday, today is just as good as any day to highlight the amazing and important work of Chris Jordan. While not literally 'colorful,' Chris's images of mass consumption, and the waste that comes along with it, give us a stark reminder of the responsibilities of manufactures, marketers and consumers to manage the product cycle with the best interest of the Earth and all its inhabitants in mind.
An American Self-Portrait
Running the Numbers looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 32,000 breast augmentation surgeries in the U.S. every month.
Depicts 2.4 million pieces of plastic, equal to the estimated number of pounds of plastic pollution that enter the world's oceans every hour. All of the plastic in this image was collected from the Pacific Ocean.
This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs. Employing themes such as the near versus the far, and the one versus the many, I hope to raise some questions about the roles and responsibilities we each play as individuals in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming.
Plastic Bottles, 2007
Depicts two million plastic beverage bottles, the number used in the US every five minutes.
The pervasiveness of our consumerism holds a seductive kind of mob mentality. Collectively we are committing a vast and unsustainable act of taking, but we each are anonymous and no one is in charge or accountable for the consequences. I fear that in this process we are doing irreparable harm to our planet and to our individual spirits.
Oil Barrels, 2008
Depicts 28,000 42-gallon barrels, the amount of of oil consumed in the United States every two minutes (equal to the flow of a medium-sized river).
As an American consumer myself, I am in no position to finger wag; but I do know that when we reflect on a difficult question in the absence of an answer, our attention can turn inward, and in that space may exist the possibility of some evolution of thought or action. So my hope is that these photographs can serve as portals to a kind of cultural self-inquiry. It may not be the most comfortable terrain, but I have heard it said that in risking self-awareness, at least we know that we are awake.
Skull With Cigarette, 2007 [based on a painting by Van Gogh]
Depicts 200,000 packs of cigarettes, equal to the number of Americans who die from cigarette smoking every six months.
Cell Phones, 2007
Depicts 426,000 cell phones, equal to the number of cell phones retired in the US every day.
Plastic Bags, 2007
Depicts 60,000 plastic bags, the number used in the US every five seconds.
Paper Cups, 2008
Depicts 410,000 paper cups, equal to the number of disposable hot-beverage paper cups used in the US every fifteen minutes.
Circuit boards, Atlanta 2004